Thursday, August 26, 2010


There have been scrolls upon scrolls at this point written about the battle royale of e-readers. While there are many e-readers who have come on the scene, Kindle is still the head of the class of reading devices and is the one I will write about on the dedicated e-reader front. When the IPAD burst on the scene - with its ability to do so much, including book reading - it ratcheted up the debate of which device to choose.

I write because I read New York Times writer David Pogue's article-review-analysis on the new kindle today.

I am a user - a gadget geek probably - who actually has both devices. I purchased a Kindle just before last summer and picked up the IPAD WIFI/3G just before this summer. I probably rushed into purchasing the IPAD without thinking too hard about where each device would fit into my life. It's like getting a new dog at the spur of a moment when you already have one - as my family actually did - and letting nature see how they coexist and find their new way in the world. The coexistence is confusing at first, and then acclimation ultimately renders a clear path, and you are left with an understanding of how the relationship will be.

For me, pre-IPAD, I had used the Kindle as an e-reader for books but more so on a daily basis as the device for all my papers and magazines, particularly the New York Times, Time Magazine, Newsweek, and the Economist. I learned to read on cardio machines at the gym in the morning - which changed my life (and the big font options and text-to-speech allow you to actually enjoy while running on a treadmill) - and I loved the fact that I could always carry around this small device (I have the 6" version) and pop it open to read anything at any time. It was perfect.

Then came the IPAD. On the whole, the IPAD obviously allows you to do a lot more. From using applications to seeing things in color (gasp!), to traversing the 'net on a super-fast N wireless connection, to email in a beautiful interface, to even e-reading.

My biggest dog-eat-dog coexistence worries with the IPAD were thinking about 1) how it would fit into my daily life between an IPHONE and a Laptop 2) how I would resolve the issue of e-reading and 3) what would be my dedicated daily device (who wants to be carrying around an IPHONE, IPAD, Kindle, lunch and gym bag?).

And to make it all the tougher, the Kindle application on the IPAD only allows for book reading; that means none of your daily/weekly/monthly subscriptions that you have on the Kindle are visible in your IPAD. This makes the daily dedicated device issue an all-or-nothing gamble. If subscriptions were to sync, your choice of what device to leave the house with would be one of daily preference.

At first, i stuck with the Kindle, which meant the IPAD stayed at home. That was my original plan, too: the IPAD would be my home device and the Kindle the traveler. But as I moved on, I started to become very aggravated with the subscription issue. Here I had this great device in the IPAD and I could - I should - be using it in the day. How dare Amazon force me to choose what device I use each day? So just like that, I went all Tea Party, and cancelled all subscriptions on the Kindle.

I transferred the IPAD into my daily device and the Kindle as the background device that would stay home, and be my "long-form" reader (as is the parlance of the e-reading intellectuals). For the New York Times, I started using the NY Times Editors Choice application for the IPAD. It's highly deficient - a politically created half attempt - but it allowed me to read the Times at the gym, my books if I wanted to, and then gave me the opportunity to use the IPAD as my roving tablet at work. This worked for me.

Then, out of nowhere, subscriptions for the New York Times came to the IPAD, but in the form of the Barnes and Noble "Nook" e-reader application. More confusion! But it's much better than the alternative. So I set up an account with Nook and have been subscribing on the IPAD ever since. It doesn't resolve the multi-device subscription sync hopes with my Kindle device, but it works for me and gives me hope that Kindle can't be far behind in figuring this out if a competitor did. And when it happens, I will move right over there and I have my perfect world.

What does this all say about the IPAD vs. the Kindle?

Well, from a reading standpoint, the IPAD is too heavy for reading for too long (there's what "long-form" means) and the screen - which provides a beautiful touch screen interface and color - finds its kryptonite when exposed to the sun. It is rendered annoyingly unreadable and you find the thing you can see most clearly is your own visage, as the reflection from the sunlight creates a perfect mirror that obscures anything behind the screen.

The Kindle's main limitation - it essentially does one thing - is what makes it the thing it is supposed to be: a dedicated e-reader. But because of that and its e-ink technology, you can really read it anywhere and for a really long time. It can go for nearly a week with the 3G - and now WIFI - left on; it can go for weeks going on a month with that technology turned off. The IPAD goes for about 10 hours - unbelievable from the PC/Laptop point of view - but paling in comparison to the Kindle.

My opinion is that if the subscription sync issue can be figured out, why not have both? If you were to purchase both WIFI versions of the devices, you're looking at a pricetag of somewhere around $650, basically the price of the mid-range WIFI/3G version of the IPAD. With the subscription caveat, you will now have devices that speak to one another. One of the cool features of the Kindle and its IPAD/IPHONE apps is that your reading and how far you read on each of them syncs across devices. So, if i read to a certain location on the Kindle, when I open the book on the IPAD or the IPHONE it will offer me the opportunity to go right to that point, and vice versa.

Forever, we had, in essence, been buying one "device" for each book we bought, in the form of a single hardcover or single paperback book. Think of the IPAD as a hardcover and the Kindle as a paperback. These two devices are different and don't necessarily cannibalize one another, but have the real opportunity to complement each other.

But for me, until subscriptions syncing get figured out, my Kindle - outside of my last vacation to the beach, where it was truly needed - has sat next to my bed as a prop.

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